Metabolic scaling in insects supports the predictions of the WBE model

A. J. Riveros, B. J. Enquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The functional association between body size and metabolic rate (BS-MR) is one of the most intriguing issues in ecological physiology. An average scaling exponent of 3/4 is broadly observed across animal and plant taxa. The numerical value of 3/4 is theoretically predicted under the optimized version of West, Brown, and Enquist's vascular resource supply network model. Insects, however, have recently been proposed to express a numerically different scaling exponent and thus application of the WBE network model to insects has been rejected. Here, we re-analyze whether such variation is indeed supported by a global deviation across all insect taxa at the order and family levels to assess if specific taxa influence insect metabolic scaling. We show that a previous reported deviation is largely due to the effect of a single insect family (Termitidae). We conclude that the BS-MR relationship in insects broadly supports the core predictions of the WBE model. We suggest that the deviation observed within the termites warrants further investigation and may be due to either difficulty in accurately measuring termite metabolism and/or particularities of their life history. Future work on allometric scaling should assess the nature of variation around the central tendencies in scaling exponents in order to test if this variation is consistent with core assumptions and predictions of the WBE model that stem by relaxing its secondary optimizing assumptions that lead to the 3/4 exponent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)688-693
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Insect Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2011


  • Body size
  • Metabolic rate
  • Metabolic scaling
  • Nutrient supply network model
  • Termites

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Insect Science


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